Church and State Separated by a Foot

 

feet1-3“I HAVE TO GET BAPTIZED! LIKE…RIGHT NOW!’

The rambunctious audience hushed. It was a stuffy 98 degrees, egg salad stench elbowed it’s way down the aisle. I might throw up. But this. Every annoyance slipped into the background. My eyes welled up, looking at this 10-year-old girl who had just catapulted off her seat.  She was serious and passionate. Having given her heart to Jesus just weeks before, she meant business.

Emily, if you want to get baptized, we’ll make sure it happens!

You may imagine this took place during Sunday school. Nope.

This scene played out on the side of the road, in a 20-year-old trailer…outside a Public School.  This is my first year teaching ‘Chapel on Wheels’. If you’re not familiar, public school kiddos get permission from their parents to trek out to a hot, crowded, sometimes smelly, propped up, blessed trailer.

Church and state are separated by 12 inches out on the curb.

All across Orange County, kids give up their lunch recess to participate.

Why?!

To hear about Jesus.

To know they’re loved.

To believe they matter.

Last week, a woman from South Africa peeked in utter confusion, Is this a Church?!

Well…kind of. For 45 minutes…it’s church to these kids.

She threw her hands up, AH! Can you believe it?! They took God out of schools and kicked him out on the street!!

It made me laugh out loud. It does sound ironically sad. But believe me, God can’t be kicked out of any place. Satan is such a liar. It’s both laughable and infuriating.

Joseph was told there was no room at the inn for Jesus to be born. (Luke 2:6-7)

Guess what?

No room, did NOT mean, No Jesus.

He still came.

We may not like the thought of our precious King being born in stable. Many grieve that there is no longer room for Jesus in the Public schools. But guess what?!

No room, does NOT mean, No Jesus.

He still comes.

People we love may fix a ‘NO ROOM FOR JESUS’ sign atop their relationships.

No room, does NOT mean Jesus hasn’t come for them, either. He may be waiting a foot away from their heart-wrenching defiance.

Joseph and Mary didn’t go far from those that denied them space. They stayed close to the walls that kept them out, confident Jesus would be delivered.

At times, God will call us to remain near to walls, circumstances, governments and friendships that have no room for Jesus. I want to encourage you to stand strong and don’t give up on them! God knows you love them. He loves them more. He passionately desires to be delivered into their hearts. He may be asking you to be the midwife. Jesus is coming!

A stinky stable didn’t keep kings, wise men and shepherds from coming to see Jesus. And apparently, a stinky trailer hasn’t kept rowdy 5th graders from him either! God can do his thing anywhere.

‘KEEP OUT’ signs are really ‘KEEP PRAYING’ signs.

We can sit outside public schools, government buildings, brothels, broken relationships, fractured families and pray. No wall, no law, no enemy can keep Jesus out.

I say this confidently!  Twenty kids accepted Jesus as Lord in our funky little trailer this year. I never imagined this happening. Emily is getting baptized, along with other kids from Chapel on Wheels this Sunday. We didn’t have to go into the schools. We simply had to nestle ourselves up against the cold curb and deliver Jesus. He came.

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

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Encouraging Facts:

Chapel on Wheels (aka Released Time), came to LA in 1942. Yorba Linda started the program in 1953, starting with just 3 schools and 1 trailer. NOW, the Placentia/Linda School District has 7 trailers, 21 schools and a staff of 52 volunteers! The program averages 356 students in our local community. So awesome.

Mamma Crossroads & Pinterest Fails

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The night before Micah’s class party, I noticed an unread message in my Inbox.  The Class Mom was thanking me for volunteering to bring the Carrot & Celery Turkey Cups…

Turkey Cups?! UGH! I thought I’d signed up for carrot and celery sticks.

Apparently, I didn’t scroll down to the bottom of her previous email. I’d missed the Pinterest example she’d attached. How could I make such a rookie mistake?!

If having elementary school kiddos has taught me anything, it’s ALWAYS scroll to the END of email messages. For real. Read. The. Whole. Thing.

If you don’t, you’ll miss crucial sentences:

  • Please have your child dress like his/her favorite super hero
  • RSVP yesterday or your kids won’t get a party favor
  • Shhhhh! It’s a surprise!!

It was too late to make a frantic Michael’s run. A crazy-lady-mental- inventory would have to suffice:

Plastic cups.

Brown paper.

I THINK I have orange paper.

But those eyes…no way I was cutting teensy-tiny circles this late.

I’m pretty sure I have sticky googly eyes in the closet. Although, I’m not sure why…

Ah, yes…I had googly eyes. But not one was the same size!

I was at a Mamma crossroads: Do I use what I have, or just throw in the towel?

Isn’t life like that? We don’t have the ‘perfect’ thing to offer, so we’re tempted to offer nothing.

If it’s not mismatched googly eyes, it’s a house that’s too small for gatherings, only an hour a week to write or lasagna that’s not as good as mom’s.

So why help in the classroom?

Why invite people over?

Why write a blog?

It’s hard to give from areas we feel less than. The enemy hisses in these shallow spaces, God can’t use this, don’t even bother.

Really, Satan?!!

 Because, I remember a boy who offered five small loaves and two small fish. Jesus used it to feed multitudes. (John 6:9)

I know a story about a widow who offered a little oil and a handful flour. God never allowed her jars to run dry. (1 Kings 17:7-16)

There once was a man slow of speech and tongue. He was hesitant to offer his voice. God used him to stand against Pharaoh and set his people free. (Exodus 4:10)

As a Mamma, sometimes all I can offer is a pile of dirty dishes, never-ending laundry, sick kiddos and pets I forget to feed. We all have moments like Moses saying to God,  Are you sure you want this? I don’t have much to offer you.

Offer it anyway.

He sees every scrap of bread, shaky insecurity, dirty sock and mismatched googly eye we raise up to him.  He’ll use it! He delights in making small things significant.

God gives us joy when we give from our shortage, rather than our supply.

This creates space for God to show up, not only in our lives, but in the lives of others. Jesus fed hungry masses in response to a boy’s meager offering. He provided security for the widow’s child when she presented a handful of flour. Moses set people free, laying bare his shortcomings, trusting God to use them.

The kiddos and I giggled up late finishing those silly cups.  Life isn’t always dramatic. Those awful turkeys didn’t set any captives free, but God handed us back layers of laughter that overflowed into the classroom the next morning.

We used what we had. It was enough for God to turn into joy.

A Marked Life:

Share how God used something small you offered and multiplied it into something unexpected! Click on ‘Comments’ on the top left.

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Sometimes, All You Can Do Is Hang On

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If I look down, I’ll fall!

And then…my kids will tumble off…

If we survive, we’re doomed! I didn’t pack any snacks or hand sanitizer.

Welcome to me…unhinged in a National Park. Fear of heights is a relatively new blessing. Something short circuited when Aaron and I were newlyweds. On top of the Sacred Heart church in Paris, a strong wind blew. I stopped. Dropped. And rolled into the fetal position.

We kept the shovel he used to scrape me off the floor as a souvenir.

Ever since, I imagine myself plunging to my death at the slightest heights. My sweet husband thinks I’ve lost my mind. I don’t even allow the kids to walk next to the mall railing on the second floor.

It freaks me out.

What if they decide to climb over and jump to Santa?!

It could happen.

If anyone fell off this cliff in Sequoia, Santa wouldn’t be there to catch us.

I decided the best way to prevent a tragedy, was to glue my face, arms, legs and stomach to the cold stone; like a flattened fruit roll up. This offered room for other hikers to push past.

Yes, this was a good idea

Mommy! Aren’t you going to the top with us?!

Nah…Mommy is going to smell this rock for a bit.

People were staring. Some tried to help, Do you need a tissue? Essential oil?

I don’t reminisce over this snapshot often.

However, I’m a visual learner. I’ve been asking God to teach me by showing me. During worship on Sunday, God brought this distressed picture of Jenna to the forefront.

There I was, clinging to the side of the cliff.  When I looked down, I was seized with fear. When I looked up, the clouds were crushing me. But, just like in Sequoia, if I kept my face towards the rock, I knew I would be OK.

He was clear.

This is what you look like, Jenna. You’re panicking. Stop looking away from the rock.

We’re living through a season of great unknown in our adoption journey. I don’t know how to stop shifting my gaze in every direction. I’m looking for answers.

Will this break me, Lord?

Will any good come out of this?

God is the fire by night, the cloud by day. But he is always the rock.

There is no Rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:2)

King David was protected by the rock, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge …’(2 Samuel 2-3).

The Israelites were pursued by the rock,  “…for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

God’s people were given sweet provision from the rock, “He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag” (Deuteronomy 32:13 )

There’s no shame in taking a season to stop and grasp to the rock…the rock that is Christ.

We were made to climb with Jesus.

Honestly, there are days all I can do is cling to Him.

God knows. He gives grace if we’re not ready to forge to the top. But, it’s those pesky what ifs that pry our fingers from our stronghold. We glance down and imagine our broken bodies at the bottom. Even more, our shattered expectations of what God should’ve done.

I have a choice. I’m learning to train my thoughts to press back into the solid rock. My arms wrapped tight around Jesus.

Yes. This is a good idea.

I may look like a crazy-lady-pancake fastened to my faith. I’m not ashamed.

God answered my question. Can any good come from this?

Yes.

God’s protection,

God’s pursuing love,

God’s sweet provision.

This time, I’m not gripped by fear, but faithfulness. I’ll be brave enough to climb again soon.

For now, I’m just going to hang on.

 

A Marked life:

If you don’t feel strong enough to climb, it’s OK to cling. 

There is no Rock like our God!

 

 

Barefoot Parenting

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My friend’s eyes spied my daughter climbing through our side window, cradling a rabbit.

Yup. Our children use windows like doors.

Realizing this may not be the norm for most families, I let out a raw laugh,

Didn’t you know? We live like animals around here!

Her face lit up, Oh, we don’t have screens, either!

Ah, a kindred mamma spirit.

But, I did notice your kids don’t wear shoes very often…

She listed various times and events she’d witnessed my shoe-less children. It was a completely non-judgmental, endearing encounter. We giggled as she collected her cuties.

I didn’t recall half of the times she mentioned.

I kept saying, Really?!

Oh yes, last week when you picked up Micah, no one had shoes on then, either…

Really?!

Apparently, there’s a crack in my parenting I wasn’t aware of.

The door shut. Jesus help me. I am truly raising animals.

My head sunk back. The admission slipped out in a single breath, Jesus, there are so many holes in my parenting.

His spirit whipped back sharp and clear,  It’s Ok. I can make them Holy.

God isn’t surprised I’m not a perfect mom. If my kids do miraculously grab a shoe…they can’t find the other one anyways! Still, I imagine he delights in watching their naked toes running through grass and tiptoeing through Target.

He must’ve been pleased with his servant Moses, barefoot before the burning bush and Joshua, a mighty warrior, barefoot before battle. “Take off your sandals,” he commanded them, “for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5, Joshua 5:15) Holy translates to ‘set apart’.

Before both men where commissioned into their own form of battle, they were asked to remove their shoes. Well, my friend, parenting is a battlefield!

God is asking us to take off our shoes, too.

In ancient culture, removing one’s shoes had great significance. It could signify many things: reverence, submission, redemption of property, transfer of power, showing the legality of a purchase. It was also symbolic of giving up one’s rights.

Yes, God can make the holes in my parenting holy. However, I need to give up my parental rights to the perfect father.

There are areas I can’t reach in the hearts of my children; no matter how hard I strain to touch them.

The tears I don’t see,

The pain they don’t share,

The lies they believe,

The innocence I can’t protect…

These places are holy ground. They must be set apart for the Lord.

Because let’s be honest, we’ll never know the whole story of what happened at school that day. It isn’t possible to intercept every cruel word and relationship thrown at them. Sometimes, things slip between the cracks.

No matter how hard we try, there will be days our kids aren’t wearing shoes at Costco.

Sometimes this happens, because ALL the time, we are just human. Human parents, stomping around in our big ‘ole boots, thinking we got this parenting thing all figured out.

We think we love our kids more than God. Mamma Bears, you know this is true. This lie violently twists and tightens around our sandals, making it feel impossible to ever take them off in submission.

I’d lay down my life for my children in a heartbeat!  But, their Father in heaven already did.

I can’t beat that. I can’t love them like God does.

When we yank those sandals off, the rocky terrain of faith may bruise and bloody our sensitive soles.

Praise God, we have a savior who kneels down and cradles those steadfast Mamma feet. He gently washes and restores. Tenderly fitting them with readiness and peace, he prepares us to follow him into battle.(Ephesians 6:15)

He will even help us find that other stinkin’ shoe!

God’s ways are better for our children, because his love is bigger.

No parenting class, yoga pose, discipline strategy, special smoothie or supplement will help us to fill in the tender areas we fail as parents.  I want to be a generation of parents bowing before the great I AM, taking off our shoes and declaring, “Only through His strength, can we battle for the lives of our children!”

He is the only Father that can comfort their silent whimpers, mend their broken spirits, heal their bruised hearts, and whisper directly to their souls, You are loved, you are seen…when we cannot. We must intentionally dedicate them to the Father who never fails.

Parenting is holy ground.

I want to be barefoot before the Lord.

 

A Marked Life: Next time you see bare feet…

  • Ask God to continually fill in the spaces you can’t reach.
  • Take off your own shoes as an offering.
  • Trust his ways are better, because his love is bigger.

 

 

 

 

Bring Your Mess

who me2Got the keys?

Check.

Diaper bag?

Check.

Wispy blonde hair, weighed down by clumpy mascara?

Wait…what?

I pivoted on my heel and peeked into the bathroom again. Her brown eyes scanned my face, looking for a smile. Those nimble two-year-old fingers had found mascara and adventurously brushed it through my daughter’s hair.

“Bushie my hair, Momma!’

Wow. Wrong brush, baby.

I knelt down and scooped up my beauty queen.

Then a sheepish voice cast itself on my back, “Uh oh”.

Oh, Eli…not the house plants.

Dirt. Every. Where.

I surveyed the damage, my skunk-haired cutie balanced on my hip.

I quickly realized, it wasn’t just my 3-year-old son caked in soil.

I yanked back my cry.

There was Micah, shoveling fistfuls of earth into his mouth. His one-year-old jaw labored up and down- like a cow chewing cud.

At least it’s organic.

Aaron was out of town on a business trip. It had been months since I’d gone to Bible study. And to be fair, I had a diaper bag full of excuses. But THIS was the day I felt a strong tug on my heart: I needed to be surrounded by other women.

But, I couldn’t go now. I couldn’t walk though those heavy doors and be, the mom who let her two-year-old die her hair black. Or, the mom who clearly feeds her boys dirt for dinner and never makes them bathe.

No, thank you. Not today.

My shoulders dropped. I would stay home and miss fellowship…again. I ran my hand under the bath water, it grew warm like the tears collecting on my cheeks.

As I lined up the troops for clean up…a worship song came rushing into my heart.

The chorus rang, “Come, just as you are…”

Whoever wrote that, hasn’t had a day in the life of the Masters family, I thought.

But, it kept looping, like a broken record in my head, “Come, just as you are…”

The spirit was calling me to fellowship, telling me it was OK to come, ‘as is’. If anyone could understand the mishaps of motherhood…it was other women!

I felt a surge of energy and shamelessness pour over me.

I quickly turned off the bath water and announced to my three ragamuffins, ‘Momma’s decided we’re gonna take this mess with us!!”

Yes. We would take our mess with us.

Isn’t that what true fellowship is all about?

We don’t need to have-it-all-together– to be together.

Flesh Pierced. Paper Torn.

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I grab a pen and a pile of paper. I am going to write down my sins, one by one. One piece of paper for each sin.

I close my eyes. I should pause in prayer before I begin this seemingly impossible task. Instead of opening my eyes after I pray, they stay glued shut. This IS impossible. So I imagine…

I imagine picking up the pen and writing on the first paper: Today, I lost my temper with my kids.
Then, the second: As a little girl, I was jealous of my pretty friend.
The third: Yesterday, I wished I had a bigger house.
The fourth: Sunday, I blamed my husband for things that were my responsibility.

I quickly realize, there aren’t enough hours to compile every hidden sin. So my mental scribbles become one or two big words on each paper:
                                                   Wanting More.
                                                   Ignoring God.
                                                  Ugly Words.

My mind runs out of paper. But just as well; paper could no longer hold the weight of the words. I imagine writing the rest on huge stones:
                                                   Envy.
                                                  Disobedience.
                                                 Complacency.
                                                 Laziness.
                                                 Arrogance.
                                                Selfishness.

I can’t do this anymore. I imagine my desk covered with papers. They are falling onto the floor, pressing up against the walls and pouring out the windows like an avalanche. The huge stones have shattered my mirrors and cracked the tile floors.

My heart feels heavy under the weight of all the words; under the weight of all my sin. But God shouts through the condemnation:

‘And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.‘ -Colossians 2:13-14

My eyes feel as if they will never open again. I can’t miss what God is about to show me.

A man is coming. He is collecting my papers…one by one.

A man is coming. He lifts the heavy stones and carries them on his back.

There is something else on his back too.

A cross.

He leaves my house. He goes to my neighbors and does the same thing. They have a collection of papers and stones… just like me.

There are a few neighbors who don’t want him to clean out their house. They sit atop their stones grasping their mass of papers and weep.

It breaks my heart. I know it breaks His more.

Now the man begins his climb up the hill. I know the story. You know the story. He carries his cross. I imagine him carrying the heavy stones and every single piece of paper with it’s scribble of black sin, too. He doesn’t drop one. Not a single one.

He grips my written sin as the soldiers hammer the first nail through his hand. Flesh is pierced; paper is torn.
My selfishness: Nailed to the cross.
My arrogance: Nailed to the cross.
My apathy: Nailed to the cross.
Blood flows, drenching the papers in his hand, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against me.

I watch every single sin of my life, being nailed to the cross.
He took it all away, having nailed it to the cross.
He took it all away.
He took it all away.
He took it all away.
Amen.
And what of the stones? The only stone I see is the one that was rolled away.

Breathing in the Unknown

 

I kept banging around the bowl trying to corner him, “Seriously fish! Trust me!”

Talking to my blue fish has become the norm these days. He’s the kind of guy who’d never leave dirty socks on the floor. And, he never asks things like, Mommy, why do you laugh like a seal? He’s such a gentleman.

Each week he graciously swims into my net to be transferred to clean water.

But, yesterday! He gave the biggest attitude. He wouldn’t get into the net and it wasn’t funny! If he didn’t want this water, he was welcome to the toilet I’d scrubbed earlier.

I crashed my net against the glass again, “I don’t want you to get sick!”.

My heart winced. I was on the verge of being sick too…spiritually sick. I knew it, and God was getting my attention. I was all bent out of shape over this fish not letting me save it from poop water, as I defiantly swam in my own.

I recently expected God to move in a certain way in my life…and he didn’t. I was heartbroken.

I’d rather be submerged in disappointment, then be transferred into God’s perspective of my circumstances. I was over it. Over praying. Over crying. Over…whelmed.

Still, here was God, trying to rescue me, “Seriously child! Trust me. I don’t want you to get sick!”

God’s love has never failed me. He’s carried me like, a Father carries a son, out of every Egypt and wilderness I’ve faced. Why was I banging my head against the bowl trying to escape rescue?

If I enter into God’s saving net, He’ll raise me up into a pocket of air called the unknown.

Let’s be honest, breathing in the unknown, can hurt.

I got that stubborn fish in the net, he wriggled in desperation, gasping, until I plopped him safely in clean water. When we’re scooped up into God’s purposes, we don’t have to mimic a suffocating fish. If it feels like we can’t breathe, it’s because we’re choking on lies.

Here is the truth: God isn’t going to flush us down the toilet.

We can enter into the unknown, clinging confidently to the known.

We know our God is good!

Abandoning the mire and surrendering to hope, elevates us to a new atmosphere. Like those who train to climb Mt. Everest, it will stretch and challenge the lungs of our faith. The air is thin and burns our chest.

Yet, our Father teaches us a new way to breathe. Instead of gasping on lies, we deeply inhale his promises.

One by one-

He loves us. He lifts us higher.

He fights for us. We grow stronger.

He’s with us. We have peace.

Our mighty God will always deliver us to a place of hope and beauty.

“There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” -Deuteronomy 1:30-31